East Hawaii News

State Budget Includes Slight Increase in TAT for Counties

April 28, 2014, 1:01 PM HST
* Updated June 9, 3:19 PM
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The state Legislature has scheduled a Tuesday vote on a $12.1 billion supplemental budget bill for the upcoming 2014-2015 fiscal year.

Members of the state House and Senate worked out details of the budget (House Bill 1700) Friday night, setting the stage for tomorrow’s floor votes.

Legislative leaders said in response to lower projections from the Council on Revenues, Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s budget request was trimmed by $65.7 million for the upcoming fiscal year.

In a related action, another conference committee voted Friday to increase the portion of the state’s transient accommodation tax given to the counties.

House Bill 1671 boosts the counties’ portion of the TAT, also known as the hotel room tax, to $103 million from $93 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1 .

Hawaii County’s portion of that remains at 18.6%, which means next year it will receive $19.1 million, a $1.86 million increase over the current year’s allotment.

Before being capped at $93 million, the counties had previously received a combined 44.8% percentage of TAT revenues, which for the next fiscal year would have amounted to an estimated $165 million.

Budget conference committee co-chairs Rep. Sylvia Luke, left, and Sen. David Ige, right, during Friday's deliberations on the state's spending plan for the next fiscal year. Senate photo.

Budget conference committee co-chairs Rep. Sylvia Luke, left, and Sen. David Ige, right, during Friday’s deliberations on the state’s spending plan for the next fiscal year. Senate photo.

The counties have argued that increasing TAT revenues mean more tourists to Hawaii which require greater county services in the form of public safety and infrastructure needs.

Several Big Island projects are included among the budget’s capital improvement section approved Friday, including $800,000 for a new regional library in Puna. The funding includes $250,000 for planning and $550,000 for design.

The head of the state’s library system has said that a large library is appropriate for Puna because of the district’s rapid growth, but funding has been difficult to secure.

Puna Sen. Russell Ruderman and Ka`u Sen. Josh Green had introduced a bill this past session to appropriate $350,000 toward a new Puna library. That bill stalled but the funding request was then transferred to CIP budget.

The Pahoa library shown above is the third-busiest on the Big Island, behind those in Hilo and Kailua-Kona. File photo.

The Pahoa library shown above is the third-busiest on the Big Island, behind those in Hilo and Kailua-Kona. File photo.

Puna has the second-highest library usage on the Big Island. It trails only South Hilo, which consists of just the library on Waianuenue Avenue — the busiest library in the entire state.

Other Big Island projects contained in the CIP budget include:

  • $33 million for a new permanent home for the University of Hawaii at Hilo College of Pharmacy
  • $35 million toward construction of a new Kona courthouse
  • $5 million for improvements at Kona Community Hospital to include elevator replacement, electrical upgrades and asbestos abatement
  • Various improvements at Kona International Airport including $70 million for terminal expansion and $5.9 million for security, including a closed-circuit television system at Kona’s airport
  • Hilo International Airport projects including $19 million for a new fire station, $17.6 million for renovation of Runway 3-21 and $5.5 million for airport security, including a closed-circuit television system
  • $3.3 million for upgrades to the air conditioning system and Hilo Medical Center
  • $2.5 million for renovation of UH-Hilo’s 2.2-meter telescope atop Mauna Kea
  • $1 million for construction of a community health center in Kona
  • $750,000 for planning and design of a free-standing emergency room in Puna
  • $500,000 for a temporary site for the UH-Hilo International Flight Training Center

Budget and other bills approved by the Legislature will still require the governor’s signature.

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